Sports

Crucial hits from Maeser, Viers steal win from Wildcats

Falcon first baseman Abby Hodson drops low for the throw from shortstop Haley Viers (not pictured). Hodson’s catch beat out the Wildcats’ runner.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Falcon first baseman Abby Hodson drops low for the throw from shortstop Haley Viers (not pictured). Hodson’s catch beat out the Wildcats’ runner.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

EVERETT — Despite two home runs and more than a half dozen illegal pitches, the South Whidbey softball team beat Archbishop Murphy 8-6.

During the balmy, 70 degree afternoon Tuesday, the Falcons turned up the pressure on the Wildcats with a 2-0 lead in the first inning, only to have the Wildcats (3-6 Cascade Conference, 3-6 overall) roar back. By the third inning, the Falcons (3-6 Cascade Conference, 4-6 overall) regained the lead on a two-run double from senior right fielder Zoey Maeser. With two outs, Maeser’s hit to the right-center field fence brought in senior Brittany Wood and junior Ellie Greene and gave the Falcons a 4-3 advantage.

“I’m really working on getting my extension out there, so it felt good to be able to hit out there,” said Maeser, who finished 1-for-3 at the plate with two RBI and one score.

“I feel like we could’ve beat them by more. I liked the way we played today, especially after the loss to Lakewood on Friday.”

The Falcons’ bottom-of-the-order batter Haley Viers padded the lead. In the sixth inning, Viers hit a single to left field that scored Maeser from third. South Whidbey’s sophomore shortstop had returned from a spring break vacation and lifted the team with her play on the field as well as her 1-for-2 batting, one RBI, two walks and one score.

“It felt like I hit it pretty well,” Viers said. “It was an inside pitch, and I felt like I barely hit it.”

South Whidbey started sophomore Mackenzie Hezel in the pitcher’s circle. Hezel took the Falcons through three and two-thirds innings and allowed six runs on seven hits and two walks with three strikeouts. She struggled with illegal pitching violations that resulted in two Wildcat scores in the first inning and another in the fourth.

“She hasn’t gotten much pitching the beginning of the year because Alex (Kubeska) has been getting us through,” said Falcon head coach Ashley Lopez.

“Her problem is she lifts her foot as well as hopping. It’s a quick hiccup. For Mackenzie, she gets really excited and her motion goes up instead of staying low to the ground.”

The fourth inning almost began with three ground outs for Hezel. The first from Wildcat pitcher Maddie Clark bounced back to Hezel outside the circle, which she fielded and threw to first baseman Abby Hodson. Then the illegal pitches went wild, saving one out and scoring one run en route to a two-out, three-run rally. Once the Wildcats had come within one run at 7-6, Lopez switched Hezel with Kubeska at left field.

“I have full confidence in Mackenzie Hezel,” Lopez said. “Those changes are really hard for her. (She) has great velocity. She keeps it down in the zone.”

Fortunately for the Falcons, they had added three runs in the top of the fourth inning to pad their lead. Viers had reached first base on a walk. She stole second base on a pitch in the dirt and scored on a single by sophomore Chantel Brown through the middle of the infield. Brown scored on a steal while Clark had her back turned to third base, where Brown had taken a 12-foot lead off the bag toward home. Greene scored Hezel from second base on a fielder’s choice to shortstop Gemma Miller, who missed the tag on Hezel and threw Greene out at first.

“The bottom half of our lineup really showed up,” Lopez said, adding that her team’s hitting streak began during South Whidbey’s spring break the week earlier. “That has led me to change up our lineup. Our outfield was not the same outfield today.”

“We’re starting to find some solid contact.”

Viers added the final run on her single to shallow left field that scored Maeser from third base. Miller backpedaled from the infield grass into left field, but couldn’t catch up with the soft line drive that floated over her glove.

“It was important that I got that hit,” Viers said.

South Whidbey had a short turnaround before a game against Granite Falls (7-1 Cascade Conference, 7-1 overall), the conference leader, on Thursday. The Tigers cruised to a 15-1 victory, capped by scoring seven runs in the seventh inning.

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